It's a perfect summer read, though, if you can manhandle your schedule to leave good long blocks of time. For one thing, that sweat trickling down Jonathan Grave's face as he sets up a rescue of a bus full of students in the tropics pulled me directly into the hottest form of summer. What a relief to find his partner Boxers nearby, ready with covering fire -- and the voice of Venice, better known operationally as Mother Hen, giving Grave tips from her observation by satellite and her swift computations back in the home office. In moments, gunfire explodes from all the wrong locations, and it's clear that the standard rescue-the-kidnapped-victims plan is way off base for what's really happening. And Grave and his team are in as much danger as their "precious cargo" being rescued. Grave lets Venice know, as he presses his mike button:
"Mother Hen, Scorpion."Jonathan and Boxers have been a rescue team for three of John Gilstrap's books, and they're impressive, with their complimentary skills in the field. (I especially like Hostage Zero.) Most intriguing for those who've enjoyed the earlier books is that in DAMAGE CONTROL, we get into the minds and memories of these two ultra-capable but still heartbreakingly human characters, as they teach some of this to a youngster who absolutely must keep up with them, for the sake of his life and those of others. Power, greed, manipulation -- those are countered by loyalty, commitment, and determined investigation by the
"We've got a pretty significant change of plans here." As he detailed all of the careful planning that now was meaningless, Jonathan tried to shake away the growing sense of dread that blossomed in his belly.
When I reached the end of DAMAGE CONTROL, I realized I'd been gone from my ordinary life for as long as it took to devour the book. And at the same moment, I realized this thriller is actually one extended crisis that lasts for more than 400 pages. Gilstrap is one of the very few writers who can position a set of characters in a situation, ramp up the tension, and -- yes, keep it there, all the way through. Whew! Good thing I've got a bit of time off until the next Jonathan Grave adventure.